How is Your Favorite Pastime Affecting Your Mental Health | Teen Ink

How is Your Favorite Pastime Affecting Your Mental Health

November 20, 2019
By laurenhoffman BRONZE, Thornton, Colorado
laurenhoffman BRONZE, Thornton, Colorado
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Many young people have social media accounts. Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are consuming most of our free time, and these platforms can affect how we feel. Pew Research Center claims that 71% of 13- to 17-year olds use at least one social media platform. Heavy use of social media can negatively affect mood not only because of social isolation, but also because of the content consumed. 

Looking at attractive or fit people can make a person feel insecure, and social media is the perfect platform to find photos of beautiful people. Jasmine Fardouly, a researcher from Macquarie University, says, “People are comparing their appearance to people in Instagram images, or whatever platform they're on, and they often judge themselves to be worse off.” Consuming lots of appearance based media can negatively affect mood because people are judging themselves based off of what other people are posting. 

These appearance based accounts make up a large portion of social media. Fashion accounts often feature skinny models in clothing that fits perfectly. Even your friends selfies can invoke feelings of insecurity. In addition, a growing trend called ‘Fitspiration’ calls on people to get fit and eat healthy. A study conducted by Tiggemann and Zaccardo in 2015 claims, “Although these images may motivate people towards a healthier lifestyle, viewing these images can also increase women’s body dissatisfaction, particularly when women compare their body to the thin and lean bodies in these images.” Most Fitspiration accounts feature fit women doing exercises or assuming provocative poses, which may make other people feel uncomfortable with their own bodies.

Fitspiration accounts don’t only impact women's body image, but affect men as well. Men who view fitness accounts directed towards males tend to compare their bodies to others more often. They may also care about how lean they are, and care more their muscles after viewing Fitspiration posts on social media. 

Some people may argue that social media can be inspirational. They may also claim that social media is a platform for self expression and sharing of experiences. While fashion accounts can inspire a new fall outfit, we are still comparing themselves to the model, wishing to look more like them in some way. Social media is a good platform for self expression, but at what point does it become an obsession? Lots of young girls are concerned with the number of likes they get, or how they look in their selfies. 

Young girls that take lots of selfies and use photo editing apps tend to feel more insecure about their appearance. A 2013 study by Tiggemann and Slater concludes, “one study investigated over 100 seventh graders and found that adolescent girls who shared more photos online, such as selfies, and used more photoshop felt worse about their appearance and exhibited greater eating concerns.” Girls as young as seventh grade are showing eating concerns because of their presence on social media and the need to photograph themselves. 


Social media has a negative effect on body image, and can cause an obsession with appearance. Speaking about young women that completed a social media study, Jennifer Mills from York University in Toronto says, "They felt worse about their own appearance after looking at social media pages of someone that they perceived to be more attractive than them. Even if they felt bad about themselves before they came into the study, on average, they still felt worse after completing the task." Young people judge themselves harshly against their peers, and tend to feel worse after viewing nice photos of attractive people. 

Social media is not only filled with appearance based accounts, and there are so many other types of content that are better for body image and mental health. Travel and food accounts can provide the same level of inspiration as fashion accounts. Memes or politics may peak your personal interest just as much as what attractive celebrities are currently up to. Be careful about the media that you consume, and the way that it makes you feel about yourself. Chances are, you are spending quite a bit of time comparing yourself to others.

The author's comments:

I am a high school senior who is passionate about mental health and body image issues in teens and young adults.

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